The Wooden Spoon

Westfield Teacher Changes Focus After Over A Decade

A vintage headboard is used for a sign at The Wooden Spoon. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

Prior to the birth of her son, Jacquie Gambino thought she would never leave teaching and would never want to be a stay at home mom. She had enjoyed teaching special education for over a decade between Jamestown and Bemus Point schools.

“It was a life-changing experience when Luca was born,” says the four-year old’s mom. “When he was two years old, I decided to leave teaching.”

She had grown up eating family dinners at her parents’ dining room table, but never took an interest in cooking and declares she was on a ramen noodle college kid diet. She had been exposed to food she was not familiar with as a pre-teen when, on several occasions, she visited her beloved Aunt Pat and Uncle Greg in Maryland.

“They had no children and gave me the royal treatment and Uncle Greg was a food-lover.”

In her 20s, she decided to try to recreate the meals she was eating in restaurants. When she dated her husband, Dave Gambino, cooking together was their “thing” and they still try to do it as much as possible.

Jacquie Gambino of Westfield makes small batches of soup all day every week day at The Wooden Spoon. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

“We love to have fellowship (when) having people over and my parents over,” she says. “Once I took a pot of soup to my parents house and everyone raved about it.”

After much thought and discussion, the couple made a decision. The Wooden Soup became a reality after she found a small space that seemed perfect for her planned use.

“We sell small batch, slow-simmer soups,” she says about the business that opened in Westfield last October. “Taking such an incredible leap is a scary thing.”

She makes a menu on a four-week rotation and posts the weekly menu on Sunday. Two to three kinds of soup are made each weekday. Her customers are encouraged to pre-order, so they are not disappointed when the variety they want is sold out.

“They can message or call in advance and can pay ahead by Pay Pal or pay at pick-up. They can literally pull up out front and grab soup.”

These are a few of the wooden spoons Westfield community residents have contributed to The Wooden Spoon. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

Her husband is the mastermind behind the bone broth that gives many of her soups a delicious and healthy base.

“I’m nourishing this community with something that is good for them,” she says. “I loved teaching, but I love this in a different way. I love when mothers come in for soup. I know their kids are eating good stuff and the older men, who live alone, aren’t eating Campbell’s.”

She offers croutons and garlic cheese rounds, which were created as a delicious mistake, to go with the soups. When she last counted, she found she makes over 30 varieties, but is open to suggestions and has adapted to the customers wants. She didn’t think dill pickle soup would be very popular, but “it flies out the door.”

“One customer said he hated some he had tried elsewhere, but he loves my dill pickle soup.”

“This community is booming. The downtown storefronts are full. There is a lot of foot traffic,” she says with a beaming smile. “The Chamber of Commerce is very strong.”

She goes on to tell about several events organized by the group, such as First Friday where the businesses set up tables on the sidewalk, events in the park across the street from her business and more. A farmers’ market, also, sets up on Saturdays in the park.

She is excited about a recent cooler purchase, which will enable her to sell layered salads that can be eaten on the go, enjoyed while sitting at her picnic table or on a bench in the park or taken home.

One of her regular customers, Michele Shields, made her weekly stop to get soup to share with her grandmother.

“I started doing this when she opened. We love the variety of soups,” she shares. “It’s nice to try something different each week, but we certainly have our favorites. Broccoli-Cheddar is the go-to soup.”

Ed LeBarron, an employee of the Village Department of Public Works, was sent by his wife to pick up some cream of mushroom soup and asked if there was any chicken and wild rice, his favorite soup.

“It’s an easy, convenient place to come,” says LeBarron who expressed concern until he found the delicious convenience would be available throughout the summer.

The walls of the small outer pick-up area of the business are decorated with wooden spoons. The idea came to her because her son enjoyed searching for painted rocks from the recent fad.

“We started the idea and asked people to decorate wooden spoons,” she says. “Daycares have decorated them. People have bought them on vacation.”

A customer donated his grandmother’s wooden spoon that was over 100 years old and had a flat side from many years of use. One of her first customers made a quilted wall-hanging, which includes the business name and actually hangs from a wooden spoon.

The businesswoman painted a vintage headboard with chalkboard paint to create a large, interestingly shaped sign which has a list of the soups that are in the kettles, refrigerator and freezer. An artist friend painted the name of the business on it and her brother-in-law added a shelf and hung the sign.

She appreciates the businesspeople who encouraged her before opening, at a time when she was second-guessing herself.

“Several female entrepreneurs reached out when I first started. I am blessed and very grateful. People are amazing,” she says. “We truly want to be a part of this community for the long-term.”

She is thankful for family members who have been helpful. Both her parents, Cate and Dave Stimson and her husband’s parents, Jack and Sue Gambino, live within five minutes of the business.

“Another reason why we would never leave Westfield is because we want Luca to have access to his grandparents. It would have really been hard opening this business had we not had our parents nearby.”

Her husband is her biggest fan.

“I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing without the support of my husband,” she adds. “Some days you just need an atta boy. I believe in me and my husband believes in me.”

She enjoys what she does, but holds firm to the 9 to 5 hours.

“When I leave here, I am mom after five and on weekends. Being part of my son’s life while he is still home, I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”

She asks him every day what the best part of his day was and he says “coming home to see you.”

The family members are avid outdoorsmen. They enjoy camping on islands in the middle of the Allegany River and another of their favorite outdoor activities is canoeing.

“Luca is four-years old and he’s already done 125 miles,” says the mom. “We pack up the Subaru and disappear to Pennsylvania. Our cell phones don’t work (there) and we unplug.”

The couple loves to golf. Luca got his first set of golf clubs for Christmas and is excited to use them.

Mrs. Gambino has shared a few of the recipes her family enjoys.

“The Mushroom Supreme recipe is one that my Mom started making at Thanksgiving many years ago and is a family favorite. There aren’t many gatherings with us where someone doesn’t ask, ‘Who is bringing the Mushroom Supreme?'”

Her one-word description for the Smoky Turkey Frittata is “Amazing.” The Molasses Cookies is an old family recipe passed down on her mother’s side of the family.

“These are my favorite cookies. (They are) simple and yet so full of flavor.”

The Horseradish Sauce goes well with any meal that includes steak or roast beef. A go-to recipe for the cook when she is entertaining a large group is Spicy Beef Pitas. The Fastnachts is a family recipe that was passed down on her father’s side.

“Making these was always an event at our house. Hours of mixing, stretching the dough, and frying it up. There were 3 kids so we all had quick hands grabbing them while they were still warm.”

The Wooden Spoon located at 29 Elm Street in Westfield, has on-street parking and a public parking lot is located a short distance away. They are open Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with weekend pick-up available on request. Orders can be placed by calling 640-4232.

Mushroom Supreme

1 lb whole mushrooms

2 beef bouillon cubes

1/2 c hot water

1/2 c bread crumbs

1/2 – 1 c Parmesan cheese

1/2 stick butter, plus extra to saute mushrooms

2 T flour

1/2 c cream

1/8 tsp salt

Dash pepper

Saute mushrooms in butter. Dissolve bouillon in water. Mix bread crumbs and cheese together. Melt 1/2 stick butter and blend with flour. Add cream, salt, pepper and beef broth. Place mushrooms in shallow baking dish and cover with cream and broth mixture. Sprinkle cheese and breadcrumb mixture over top. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Molasses Cookies

2 c molasses

2 tsp baking soda

1 c shortening, melted

1 c sour milk or (scant 1 cup milk and 1 tsp vinegar)

1 tsp ginger

1 tsp salt

Combine molasses and soda. Add sour milk. Stir in ginger and salt. Stir in enough flour to make a stiff dough, approximately 5 cups. Refrigerate several hours or overnight. Roll out dough and cut with cookie cutter. Bake at 350 degrees.

Fastnacht

3 c flour

1 tsp salt

2/3 c sugar

1 package yeast

1 c milk

2 eggs

4 T hot water plus 3 T shortening dissolve shortening in hot water

1 1/3 c flour

Confectioners’ sugar or cinnamon sugar

Stir shortening into hot water until melted. Combine with remaining ingredients, except for 1 1/3 c flour, cinnamon and sugar. Add 1 1/3 cups flour. Roll out dough on a floured surface. Dough should be fairly almost 1/2-inch thick. Cut into 3 to 4-inch circles. Stretch dough rounds slightly to make the center thin and the edges thicker. Avoid putting holes in the dough. Deep fry dough, turning once, until browned. Shake in confectioner’s sugar or cinnamon sugar or top with Peanut butter while still hot

Smoky Turkey Frittata

2 T butter

1/2 medium onion, chopped

8 large eggs

6 oz smoked turkey, diced small

1/4 c half-and-half

6 oz smoked gouda, diced small

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 c fresh parsley, chopped

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Melt butter in oven proof skillet. Add onion and cook until browned. In large bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients, using only half the gouda. Add egg mixture to skillet. Bake 7-8 minutes, until the edges are just set. Gently stir the middle of the pan. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top and then bake an additional 25-30 minutes or until set and slightly browned.

Spicy Beef Pitas

1 lb thinly sliced deli cooked beef

1/2 c picante sauce

1/3 c red wine vinegar

1/4 c olive oil

1 T snipped fresh cilantro or parsley

1/8 tsp garlic powder

1/8 tsp cracked black pepper

4 large pita rounds, halved

1 medium tomato, chopped

1 medium avocado, thinly sliced

1/4 c crumbled feta cheese

Pita bead

Tomato

Avocado

Cheese

Place sliced beef in a large ziploc bag.

Make marinade by combining next 6 ingredients. Pour over beef, seal and refrigerate 4 to 24 hours, turning bag occasionally. To serve, drain and discard marinade. Fill each pita with beef, tomato, avocado and cheese.

Horseradish Sauce

1 c sour cream

1/4 c grated fresh horseradish

1 T Dijon or spicy mustard

1 tsp white wine vinegar or cider

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Dash lemon juice

Combine all ingredients.

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